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The September Surge, pennant-race propriety, Ozzie Guillen and Sandy Alderson

First, we have new playoff brackets:

AL: Yankees (1) vs. Detroit (3), Texas (2) vs. Boston (4) or Tampa Bay (4).

NL: Philadelphia (1) vs. Arizona (3), Milwaukee (2) vs. Atlanta (4).

Thoughts: Well, since this is our lead item, let's just jump ahead, because we're going to tackle this morning Spadafore style.

News: The Rays defeat the Yankees, and the Red Sox lose to the Orioles, tying Boston and Tampa Bay for the AL wild card (as you can see above).

Views: Wow. Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow.

At this point, you've got to bet on the Rays to finish this off, right? Why not? They have the deeper pitching staff, their confidence is soaring and they're facing the opponent that's only mildly interested in winning games (which we'll address further down in this post).

Would I bet on wholesale changes in Boston if that occurs? Nah. Theo Epstein is under contract for another season, and I can't see him wanting to leave his hometown on a note like this, not after everthing he has accomplished with the Sawx. And I don't think Epstein would scapegoat Terry Francona, not when everyone can see that organizational depth has been the club's biggest problem.

As an interesting sidebar, I've been surprised by how many people, be it on the amazingness that is Twitter of the lameness that is actual real life, have said to me, "Hey, if the Red Sox don't make the playoffs, does it take the 2007 Mets off the hook?"

I don't naturally view it through that prism. But now that people mention it...yeah, I think it does get those Mets off the hook somewhat. I think this is worse.

Why? Because the Red Sox were coming off a monster winter that raised expectations dramatically, whereas yes, the Mets were coming off that 2006 NLCS heartbreaker but began the '07 season with questions surrounding their pitching depth.

And because the Mets were overtaken by a Phillies team that was all in, while the Red Sox have been challenged by a club that lost neary half its roster the previous offseason and didn't make a single trade-deadline move to upgrade the roster.

Just remarkable. We called this month the September Slumber on Labor Day, because it looked like the eight playoff bids were settled. Thanks to the Red Sox and Braves for turning this into the September Surge.

The Braves? They lost to the Phillies, inviting the Cardinals to tie them, but St. Louis - playing baseball's worst team, said, "Nah, we're good."

News: The Yankees used about half of their starting lineup and about one-eleventh of their postseason pitching staff in losing to the Rays. And on Sunday night, when they lost to Boston, Joe Girardi declined to use Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez in obvious pinch-hitting situations.

Views: This lack of full commitment to winning, against teams that need to win, has generated some discussion in the yakosphere (trademark Neil Best). Does Girardi have an obligation to go all-out to win these games?

I don't think so, and I can't think of a precedent in which a playoff-bound team prioritized competition over rest in a scenario like this. The Yankees won homefield advantage early. They earned the right to do as they wish.

That "Code," to me, applies more to teams that are out of the race. There's an expectation that they won't start their entire Triple-A team against a club in the middle of it. Think of the 2007 and 2008 Marlins who ruined the Mets' season both years by winning on the final day, the latter year without Hanley Ramirez.

But even if you don't buy into the notion that eliminated teams "owe it to the game" to play hard against the contending team, I think eliminated teams owe it to themselves to do so. I don't think the Orioles' strong play against Boston this month will catapult Baltimore into the playoffs next year. But it can't hurt the overall development process, right?

News: The White Sox released Ozzie Guillen from the obligation of managing their team in 2012, with the understanding that compensation would be required if Guillen manages elsewhere. Guillen is expected to agree shortly to manage the Marlins in 2012.

Views: Guillen pushed his way out of Chicago with his insistence of job security beyond next year, and it's probably for the best. Both Guillen and the White Sox could use a fresh start.

The Guillen-Marlins marriage will be fascinating. This winter, he'll give the club exactly what it needs, an energetic salesman in anticipation of a new ballpark opening. And I bet he'll largely be a hit with the players, who haven't been subject to that level of passion since...well, since Girardi was there, probably.

No, if you're looking for likely trouble spots, you look above Guillen, to owner Jeffrey Loria and team president David Samson. White Sox Jerry Reinsdorf adored Guillen like a son and tolerated Guillen's constant stream of controversial words and actions. Will the Florida group, notoriously combative, exhibit even 10 percent of that tolerance?

It'll be fascinating, for sure.

News: In today's Newsday is my interview with Sandy Alderson from earlier this month.

Views: When I lined up an interview with Alderson, with the understanding that it would be a lengther, "First year in review" discussion, I intended to write a feature story, supplementing Alderson's thoughts and observations with those from other people about Alderson.

But I thought Alderson addressed so many issues so clearly that a feature story would've been a journalistic Trojan Horse, if you will. It would've been this interview dressed up as something else, and I would've been trying to shoehorn in as many of Alderson's quotes as I could. 

So we decided to just run the whole Q-and-A session.

--Have a great day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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